Margot Robbie is the producer and star of a Depression-era thriller that fails to generate 

real drama.


Gun lazy: Margot Robbie and Finn Cole


It is unfortunate that the two most disabling factors of Dreamland are its director and its producer. The director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte is so determined to make his stamp on the film that he pushes in a fish-eye lens here, an overhead shot there, a jarring cross-cutting sequence – anything to distract the viewer from the story and the characters on screen. And the producer Margot Robbie has gone and miscast herself as the leading lady. Her Allison Wells is a Dust Bowl fugitive from justice and her Barbie doll looks and blindingly white teeth are as distracting as Joris-Peyrafitte’s camera trickery.


The backstory, unfolded during a prolonged prologue, is designed to establish the hardscrabble life in the unhospitable environs of the Great Plains of Texas. But it hardly kicks things off to a lively start. The Evans family is dirt poor – it’s the Great Depression – and the teenage son Eugene (the London-born Finn Cole) is looking for work. Nonetheless, in spite of the remoteness of their location, they still have electricity, a telephone and a piano. But there are the dust storms to contend with – fourteen real stinkers in one year – and the fear presented by the proximity of a gun-toting female bank robber. Eugene, a devotee of Detective Fiction Weekly (which he steals), fancies a piece of the $10,000 reward money to apprehend this malefactor. But then he hadn’t reckoned on her looking like Margot Robbie, or her turning up at the family barn with a bullet in her thigh…


Joris-Peyrafitte’s Dreamland seems to want to be Days of Heaven with a dash of Bonnie and Clyde, but has neither the poetic grandeur of the former nor the stylish brio of the latter. Instead, the atmosphere is drip-fed through the meticulously crafted production design and the dreamy voice-over of Eugene’s sister Phoebe (courtesy of the London-born Lola Kirke). The main problem, though, is that the film feels phony, the dialogue anachronistic and there’s nary a spark of chemistry between Finn Cole and Margot Robbie. Ms Robbie has proved herself to be a terrific actress in Suicide Squad and I, Tonya, but she’s just too glamorous a figure here to be any more convincing than the rest of the film. The result is a sluggish ride through familiar terrain, with no sexual frisson or suspense, nor much of a story to generate momentum. Only Finn Cole, burning with incoherent frustration, makes the film worth watching. At times recalling a young Christian Slater, the actor provides a presence that promises great things to come.




Cast: Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel, Kerry Condon, Darby Camp, Stephen Dinh, Tim D. Janis, Pab Schwendimann, Grayson Berry, Garrett Hedlund, Hans Christopher, Joe Berryman, Frances Lee McCain, and the voice of Lola Kirke (narrator).


Dir Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Pro Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Rian Cahill, Brad Feinstein, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Josey McNamara, Screenplay Nicolaas Zwart, Ph Lyle Vincent, Pro Des Meredith Lippincott, Ed Abbi Jutkowitz and Brett M. Reed, Music Patrick Higgins and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Costumes Rachel Dainer-Best, Dialect coach Liz Himelstein.


Automatik/Vertical Entertainment/Romulus Entertainment/LuckyChap Entertainment/Titan World Entertainment-Paramount Pictures.

98 mins. USA. 2020. Rel: 11 December 2020. Cert. 15.